What’s the secret behind that cold sore that pops up on your face at the most stressful of times? According to a soon-to-be published study by a group of researchers at the Wistar Institute, Herpes Simplex Virus 1 manipulates telomeres, the protective tips of chromosomes. HSV-1 causes the cell to transcribe telomere repeat-containing RNA. The virus then degrades a telomere protein called TPP1, which is involved a protein complex that helps protect telomeres. By disabling this protection, HSV-1 is able to replicate more efficiently. The virus also uses a replication protein, ICP8, which helps promote viral genomic replication.
HSV-1 is not the first herpes virus to manipulate its host’s genome. A review published in the Annual Review of Virology (2014) states that telomeric repeats have also been described for HHV-6, HHV-7, and several other members of Herpesviridae. This new finding for Herpes Simplex 1 is of particular interest because according to the CDC, the virus infects 776,00 new Americans every year.
As a side note, I noticed that the press release for this new study was published well in advance of the December 24th edition of the journal Cell Reports. Is having a press release first normal?
Osterrieder, N., Wallaschek N., and Benedikt B. Kaufer. “Herpesvirus Genome Integration into Telomeric Repeats of Host Cell Chromosomes.” Annual Review of Virology 2014. 1:215-35.